Netanyahu and Romney Share Ideology - and Donors

A Haaretz investigation found that 19 of Netanyahu's wealthiest American donors have also given to Romney, the Republican Party, and/or other Republican candidates.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly denies having any preference as to who wins the upcoming U.S. presidential election, it's clear he is rooting for Republican Mitt Romney. The two see eye to eye on the Middle East, and Romney in the White House would make life easier for Netanyahu, assuming he is reelected next year.

But the similarities don't end with ideology: The two also have many donors in common. In fact, a Haaretz investigation found that 19 of Netanyahu's wealthiest American donors, each of whom gave thousands of dollars to his campaign to defeat Moshe Feiglin in January's Likud party leadership primary, have also given to Romney, the Republican Party, and/or other Republican candidates.

Surprisingly, Netanyahu's donor list doesn't include a single Democrat - a fact that indicates just how far removed he is from those American Jews who lean Democratic.

Altogether, Netanyahu received NIS 1,249,022 from 46 people for his primary campaign, an average of NIS 26,574 per person. By law, each donor's name and address must be reported to the state comptroller, and it turns out that 37 of these donors were American.

Netanyahu's most well-known American supporter is casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has promised to spend up to $100 million to elect Romney. But while Adelson supports Netanyahu indirectly by financing the pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom, he did not make any direct contributions to Netanyahu's campaign.

In contrast, one of Netanyahu's largest campaign contributors is someone most Israelis have probably never heard of: Ronald Plotkin of California, owner of a private investment company and CEO of the Internet-based employment agency, Monster Worldwide. Plotkin gave Netanyahu NIS 36,100. But he gives far more to the Republican Party: $60,000 in 2011 and 2012, plus contributions of $5,000 each to Romney and to three other Republican candidates.

Roger Hertog of New York, a prominent American Jewish philanthropist, is a major donor to both the Shalem Center in Israel and the Manhattan Institute in New York. He also donated $5,000 to Netanyahu - small change for a man worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In the United States, he has donated $360,000 to various Republican organizations, as well as $5,000 to Romney and similar or smaller donations to three other Republican candidates.

Charles Diker of New York owns an investment houses that specializes in small companies in emerging markets. He gave $9,000 to Netanyahu and $2,500 to Romney. However, he donates to Democratic candidates as well: For instance, he gave $5,000 to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY ) and $1,500 to Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM ).

Lee Samson of California founded and runs a health services company. He gave Netanyahu $10,000. Together with his wife, he has given $40,000 to Republican institutions, $7,500 to Romney and smaller amounts to three other Republican candidates.

Nira Abramowitz is the wife of Kenneth Abramowitz of Connecticut, co-founder and managing general partner of the healthcare venture capital firm NGN Capital. In the past, they funded the Israeli Prize for Media Criticism - generally awarded to people who criticize the media for being too left-wing. Kenneth is head of American Friends of Likud, but the couple's $11,000 donation to Netanyahu was in Nira's name. The couple has also donated to Likud MKs Yisrael Katz and Yuli Edelstein. In 2008, they established the Israel Independence Fund, which gives to various rightist causes. In the United States, Abramowitz has given $80,000 to the Republican Party and smaller donations to a long list of Republican candidates, including Romney.

The Falic family of Florida owns the company Duty Free Americas, which is active in both North and South America. The family patriarch, Fima Chaim, died in January 2012, but is survived by his widow and three children. Altogether, the family is responsible for donating NIS 165,000 to Netanyahu, split among several members (since the legal ceiling on individual donations is NIS 43,280 ). Before his death, Fima gave $20,000 to the Republican Party and smaller sums to various Republican candidates. Unusually, however, he also donated to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Jewish congresswoman from Florida who chairs the Democratic National Committee. His sons Leon and Jerome, and his son-in-law Simon gave $40,000, $41,500 and $55,000, respectively, to the Republican Party, as well as smaller sums to individual Republican candidates, including Romney. All three have also donated to Democratic candidates, however - especially Wasserman Schultz.

Dr. Michael Wiener, a neurologist from California, gave Netanyahu NIS 3,780. He also gave $2,500 to Romney, $2,400 to the Republican Party and smaller sums to two other Republican candidates.

Dr. Larry Eisenberg, a gastroenterologist, gave $990 to Netanyahu and $250 to Romney.

Michael Olshan of New Jersey, owner of a private investment firm, gave $8,000 to Netanyahu. He also gave $20,000 to the New Jersey Republican Party and $2,500 to Romney.

New York attorney Eliot Lauer gave $3,000 to Netanyahu. He also gave $2,500 to the Republican Party, $5,000 to the Republican Jewish Coalition, $3,500 to Romney, and $5,000 to a Republican Senate candidate, Linda Lingle of Hawaii.

Steven Friedman of Pennsylvania is an old friend of Netanyahu's: He once headed an association to memorialize the prime minister's brother, Yoni, who was killed leading the Entebbe hostage rescue in 1976. He is also a backer of Ariel University Center, a college located in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Friedman gave $3,000 to Netanyahu, $7,500 to Romney and smaller sums to four other Republican candidates.

Dror Brian, an accountant from California, gave Netanyahu $5,000. He gave an identical sum to Romney, along with $20,000 to the Republican Party.

Michael Moskowitz, owner of a New York mortgage lending firm, gave Netanyahu $1,000. He gave Romney $5,000 and the Republican Party $30,000. He also gave to two other Republican candidates.

Monique Messer Rechtschaffen of New York gave Netanyahu $5,000. Her husband Andrew gave $1,000 to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Michael David Epstein of Maryland, whose field is real estate, gave $5,000 to Netanyahu and the same amount to Romney, as well as smaller sums to two other Republican candidates and $49,000 to the Republican Party.

Mark Tanenbaum of Florida is a former member of Tel Aviv University's board of governors who resigned over its refusal to take action against academics who call for boycotting Israel. He gave Netanyahu $11,000. In America, his donations are far more modest: He gave $2,500 to Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Interestingly, Romney and Netanyahu have another connection, on top of their common donors and a brief shared past working at Boston Consulting Group in the 1970s: One of Netanyahu's ex-wives, Fleur Cates, is also a Romney donor. Netanyahu and Cates, an American, were married from 1981-1984. Today, Cates and her second husband, investment banker Leonard Harlan, are enthusiastic Republicans: Harlan gave $30,000 to the Republican Party, $5,000 to Romney and $2,500 to another Republican candidate, while Cates gave $23,000 to the Republican Party and $5,000 to Romney.

No comment was available from the Prime Minister's Bureau as of press time.

U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney shaking hands with Prime Minister Netanyahu during a visit to Jerusalem this summer.Credit: AP



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